Looking for Something?
Browsing Category

Monetization

How to Turn Spam Emails into Blog Sponsorship Sales

Author:

spam emails sponsorship sales

Who among us doesn’t receive a mountain of spam on a daily basis? How would you like to turn those spam emails into cold, hard cash?

No, I’m not advocating that you reply to the Prince of Nigeria who wants to send you money. What I am suggesting, however, is that you can reply to some of those spam emails in a certain way in order to flip the sender from spammer to sponsor. Blog sponsorship sales can help you take your monetization efforts to another level, so this is an opportunity you should definitely consider, depending on your niche.

When is a spammer not a spammer?

There are three main types of spam, in my experiences:

  • Spam from scam artists, which actively attempts to deceive you in some way, usually to acquire your social security number and other personal information.
  • Spam that is completely off-target, sending you ads for erectile dysfunction pills and other products you don’t want or need.
  • Spam that is sort-of on target, but sent by a PR rep or agency who clearly doesn’t understand how to best communicate with bloggers.

The third type of spam is what you can potentially turn into blog sponsorship sales.

Let’s say, for example, that you write a food blog. You might receive pitches every day from people who want you to promote their kitchen products, say a new type of spatula. Most reps don’t take the time to engage with bloggers and build relationships. Instead, they just “spray and pray”– in other words, they send emails to as many people as possible, asking them to promote their Spectacular Spatulas, and hope that even a small percentage of those people actually write a blog post or send out a tweet.

They’re spammers, but they have good intentions. They don’t mean to clog up your inbox. They just want to tell you about their product.

The Step-by-Step Process for Turning Spam Emails into Blog Sponsorships

The good news for you? If you do a little work instead of deleting these emails, you might be able to make some money! Here’s the step-by-step process:

  • Step One: Research the product.

First, you have to make sure the product (or service) the “spammer” is promoting is actually something that fits your blog well. If you promote products just for the money, you’ll find yourself making readers angry. Do a little research. Make sure the Spectacular Spatulas you’re promoting are innovative, high-quality, and priced correctly, not expensive pieces of junk. Remember, even if you label something as an ad, anything you put on your blog is an endorsement.

  • Step Two: Make sure your advertising rates are listed on your site.

If you accept advertising, have a page dedicated to listing your rates. Determine what kind of sponsorships you’ll sell. Popular options include:

  1. Sidebar banner ads
  2. End-of post banner ads
  3. Sponsored posts
  4. Sponsored podcasts and videos
  5. Text links
  6. Sponsored social updates
  7. Giveaways

You can opt to not include prices or to only include very general price ranges, but remember that the more information you make public, the less time you’ll waste. Pricing is tricky, but if you’re fair and honest, you don’t have to worry about pricing yourself out of the market. It’s older, but I still love this post about how to set your prices.

  • Step Three: Reply to the form letter with a form letter of your own.

I keep a form email on hand where I can “fill in the blanks” and use to reply to anyone who sends me the third type of spam. Here’s an example of what I might send if I were a food blogger who received an email about Spectacular Spatulas:

Dear John Doe,

Thanks for your email about Spectacular Spatulas! While I’m not able to promote every product people mention to me, I do think this would be a good fit for my readers. I have several options for sponsorships on my blog, which would allow you reach my audience.

You can find these options here: *link*

I would love to speak to you more about my traffic statistics, demographics, and editorial calendar so we can work together to promote Spectacular Spatulas. Let me know if you are interested.

Best,

Allison the Food Blogger

I get a response about 1% of the time, which might not sound like much, but when you think about the vast number of spam emails you get in a day, that number doesn’t look so bad! Not everyone who responds ends up purchasing a sponsorship, but about 25% of the ads I sell come from me responding to spam. It’s not a bad deal, and I highly encourage you to give it a try if you’re interested in selling blog sponsorships.

Image credit: Bigstock (altered)

12 Reasons Why Your Blog Hasn’t Made You a Millionaire…Yet

Author:

reasons blog millionaire

A few months ago, we published an infographic highlighting the top young entrepreneurs who have made millions online. Believe it or not, this list doesn’t just include social network owners (like Mark Zuckerberg) and eccommerce business owners. Bloggers were also represented on this list of millionaires.

The next time your parents tell you to “get a real job,” just show them the potential!

That said, if your bank account looks anything like mine, you’re not at that million dollar point…yet. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a more advanced blogger, there are reasons you might have gotten derailed on your way to that million-dollar mark.

If you’re a beginning blogger, here are the main ways you’re sabotaging your efforts to become the next online millionaire someday:

1. You have a traffic problem.

Hands down, the biggest reason that most bloggers don’t make a full-time living with their blogs is that they don’t have the traffic to support it. Making money is always a numbers game. If you have 500 people walk into your jewelry store, you’re going to typically make more sales if you have 20 people walk into your jewelry store. More traffic is better! If you’re wondering what you can do to build your traffic, I recommend getting started with this post: 58 Ways to Get Noticed as a New Blogger

You also need the right kind of numbers. Even if you do have 500 people walk into your jewelry store, but none of them are interested in buying jewelry, you’re not going to sell anything. The same is true of your blog. While you want more traffic, you also want relevant traffic (i.e., traffic from people who are interested in your content and want to buy whatever you’re selling).

2. You don’t invest in your blog.

Blogging is so attractive in part because you can get started without a huge investment. But the truth is, as your blog starts to grow, going for all of the free options isn’t the best choice.

Sure, you can go for a free blog hosted by WordPress, Blogger, or another platform, but if you pay for blog hosting, you have more freedom to make money on your own terms.

Sure, you can install a free theme, but unless you have the time and skills to fully customize it, you’re not going to have as many options, nor will you have the SEO benefits you get with a premium theme.

Sure, you can install only free plugins, but there are also several premium plugins that you can purchase to increase the functionality of your blog.

I might be biased, but I fully believe that investing in education like conferences and online courses are imperative to your continued growth.

If you spend money on your blog the smart way, you’re going to see a return on your investment. Here are the top five ways I recommend spending money on your blog.

3. You’re trying to do everything yourself.

There are 168 hours in a week. If you work full time, that takes up about 40 hours, plus about 5 “lunch” hours while you’re at work. If you sleep 6-8 hours per night, that’s an average of around 50 hours. If you spend an around hour in the morning getting ready and eating breakfast, and around an hour eating diner, that’s  about 15 hours.

Which means you’re left with 50-60 hours per week to potentially work on your blog. I say potentially because you and I both know how much time it takes to deal with chores and yard work, grocery/clothes shopping, family obligations, and errands. My estimate is that the average person who also works really has 10-20 hours per week to spend blogging, if they don’t have any other hobbies or small children.

That’s 2-3 hours per day. Tops.

Millionaires in any industry have teams working with them to help make their business a success. This goes along with investing in your blog – if you want to start growing and making more money, you have to start hiring help. Otherwise, you’re going to hit a ceiling where it’s just not possible to make more money because you’ve run out of hours in the day.

Hopefully, before you hit that point, you’ll be able to quit your job to blog full time. But even then, you can’t magically create more hours in a day. You will need to start hiring a team. If you don’t, and try to do everything yourself, you’ll ultimately be capped by time.

4. You have nothing to sell.

Lots of bloggers get started making money with affiliate programs, sponsored posts, PPC programs, and ad spots on their sidebar. But with all of these money-making options, you’re only making a percentage of the total the sell price. A percentage is better than nothing, but what if you could be making that entire amount (or at least a much bigger percentage).

The key is to figure out a pain point for your audience and come up with something to solve it. For example, say you blog about personal finance. Your audience’s pain point might be not understanding how to best invest their money. If you write an ebook that solves this problem by teaching people how to get started investing, your audience will respond.

Something import to remember: what you think your audience needs might now be what they actually need. In our examples as a personal finance blogger, maybe the problem isn’t that your audience doesn’t know how to invest, but rather that they don’t know how to budget so they have money every month to use for investing. Or maybe the problem is that they know the basics of investing, but lack the motivation. Before you create a product to sell, consider polling your audience and doing some research to find out more about your community. That way, you can create a product they’ll actually buy.

5. You’re in writer mode, not business mode.

I am a content creator first and foremost. I think I do have business skills as well, but my perfect job would just be writing all day. I think a lot of other bloggers out there are similar. That’s why we blog: we love to write.

The problem is that writing alone doesn’t make you any money. You have to charge people to read it in some way, whether that is directly (selling books, for example) or indirectly (through ads on your free content).

Humans, I’ve found, tend to read about topics they enjoy. So, if you’re a writer, you probably read a lot about writing and how to write better. Continue to do that – master you craft. But also read about the business side of things. Learn as much as you can about marketing, about sales, about the ins and outs of running a business. If you can, even consider taking some business classes at a local community college. Get yourself into business mode.

The bonus? Because you are a writer, you are a naturally creative person, and that’s a skill you can’t teach. Lots of business people would love to have your creative skills! So you’re starting with an advantage. You just have to put a little effort into learning about the business side of things.

6. You haven’t networked with other top bloggers.

When I first started blogging, I was scared to reach out to other bloggers. I’m a naturally introverted person, so even online, I don’t go out of my way to meet new people. I would always worry that people would find me annoying or silly.

But you know what? If you’re networking for the right reasons – to be helpful and make friends – no one will mind your communications. In fact, most people welcome them. I love to get emails and tweets from people who enjoy my work or just want to get to know me.

By networking with top bloggers in person (when possible) and online, you’re connecting with people who can also help you build your blog traffic – and remember, traffic is the number one reason you’re not a millionaire. By building real relationships, people will naturally want to promote you, which is good for both direct traffic and for SEO.

7. Your content is still “beginner level.”

There’s something to be said for creating content for beginners. Actually, I think blogs primarily for beginners can be wildly successful. But are you a beginner? If so, you’re going to have a much harder time making money.

By this, I mean:

  • Are you new to your niche, without much experience in the topic?
  • Do you use works like “maybe” and “I think” a lot, displaying a lack of confidence?
  • Are your posts basic information found on several other websites, instead of insightful in some way?
  • Do you fail to link to other posts to support what you are writing?
  • Is your writing level sub-par?

I believe that it is impossible to teach the raw talent that natural writers have, but you can learn to become a better writer. Like I mentioned earlier, go out there and master your craft.

This is important for making money for two reasons. First, whether your reader is a beginner or advanced, they want to buy from an expert. It’s hard to position yourself as an expert if your writing isn’t great. Second, you’re going to get more traffic if your posts are amazing. People share posts that are awesome, not posts that are just okay.

8. You aren’t supporting your community.

When I was a kid, my parents owned a small business (a deli and butcher shop to be exact). On the counter, they always had a can of lollipops for the kids, and the parents really appreciated it. It gave the kids a little treat, something to keep them occupied while their parents took care of business.

My parents didn’t make money directly through the lollipops, but it contributed to their support of the community. It became a tradition for many families to stop once a week, pick up their fresh meats, and get the kids a lolly.

How are you supporting your community?

Let’s face it: there are hundreds if not thousands of other blogs in your niche they could be reading, and quality alone isn’t enough to set you apart, because the Internet is full of great writers. You have to go above and beyond.

If you do, they’ll go from being readers to fans, and it’s much easier to convert a fan into a customer than it is to convert a one-time reader into a customer.

9. You don’t care about SEO.

I’ve made the mistake of thinking that SEO doesn’t matter. “The best SEO is great content!” I would preach. And while I still believe that to be true, over the last year, I’ve made some minor tweaks to my SEO strategy and they’ve made all the difference. You’ll never read a post of mine that is stuffed with keywords unnaturally or written for search engines and not people. But the optimization is there, and it’s cause my traffic to increase.

Which, again, causes your income to increase as well.

SEO is a pain in the butt. People devote their entire lives to SEO, and when Google makes a change, we have to throw what we know out the door and start over again. But the basics do not change, and will help you create better content. Google’s entire goal is to reward good content, and if you start to play by their rules, they’ll understand that your content is good and start sending more search traffic your way.

10. You care too much about SEO.

Just like it’s a mistake to not care about SEO, it’s also a mistake to care too much. I’ve seen sites that are clearly optimized, and while the content is great from an educational standpoint, there is no soul behind it.

Your writing voice and style both matter. SEO brings people to your site, but you keep them there. That’s why a blogger like Jenny Lawson has a huge community of readers despite not optimizing her posts for search engines. Let your personality shine through, so you’re giving readers a reason to become a fan of your blog and a customer of your products.

11. You aren’t giving people what they want.

Remember when I talked about polling your audience to see what then want? Yeah, that’s a biggie. Your content needs to give people what they want or they sure as heck won’t want to buy anything from you or click on any ads.

The best way to give people what you want is to start with a well defined audience. Who exactly are you trying to reach? Think about your readers’ experience levels, sense of humor, income level, gender, and other demographics. A trick I learned from Darren Rowse is to actually write out the bio of a few of your readers. John Doe is a 50-year-old math teacher who enjoys playing the guitar and is reading your food blog to learn how to cook quick meals for his kids. Jane Smith is a 21-year-old college drop out with a strong work ethic who is reading your marketing blog to learn more about finding more customers for the bakery she recently started.

Keep in mind that what people want and what people need are two different things. People often don’t realize what they need, they only know what they want (i.e. what they think they need). When it comes to your free content, give them exactly what they need. Surprise and delight people with information they didn’t even know they needed. But when it comes to selling content? Need might not cut it.

People are usually not willing to drop money when they don’t know they need a product. People buy what they want because they think it is what they need. That doesn’t mean you should give your readers products that are unhelpful, but think about want and need when you are packaging your products.

12. You have no list.

Lastly, one of the biggest mistakes I see bloggers make is not giving people the ability to sign up for your mailing list. Having a robust mailing list can do wonders for your bottom line.

The fact of the matter is that you can’t rely on people to read you blog every single time there is a new post. Some people will, but more often, you’ll get readers who are busy and unable to keep up with all of the great content in their feed readers. If you don’t have a mailing list, you’ll have absolutely no way of reaching those people other than crossing your fingers and hoping they see your newest post.

A mailing list allows you to not only send traffic to your blog by reminding them to read your content, but it also allows you to promote affiliate sales, talk about new products you’re launching, and even sell services like consulting and freelance writing. If you aren’t already building a list, get that set up immediately and start emailing subscribers. Your bank account will thank you!

What changes are you going to make during 2014 (and beyond) to help you make more money as a blogger?

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

How to Transform Your Dormant Sites into Fabulous Sources of Passive Income

Author:

Transform your dormant sites

If you actually took the time to follow the advice of domain services experts in regards to buying and protecting your domain name, then you probably have a few dormant websites lying around. This is because these experts often advise us to buy as many TLDs of our chosen domain name as we can to protect our brand.

So, let’s say you were lucky enough to get the .com TLD for your preferred domain name and chose to buy the .org, .net, and .biz TLDs as well. What do you do with the three websites you aren’t actively using to grow your business? Believe it or not, you can turn these dormant ones into passive income streams!

What is a Passive Income Stream?

Simply put, this type of income stream provides you with a source of income with little to no need for constant upkeep as soon as the initial investment has been completed. When you write a book, for example, you make the initial investment of writing the book and then getting it published. After that, you simply wait for the sales to come in.

The Value of Passive Income

The value of passive income sources is that they provide you with multiple income streams. This means you earn not just from the business itself, but from a number of other sources as well. The importance of having several income sources lies in the fact that it protects you from a great deal of trouble in case you experience a downturn in your business. Passive income serves as a buffer, so to speak.

The idea of using websites as sources of passive income began when some people created websites with just a few pages of content and then promoted certain products as their affiliates. The owners of those sites earned a certain amount of money for every customer they sent to their affiliates. The only thing site owners had to do to keep their sites running was to update their content from time to time.

With the Google algorithm changes, however, this type of sites started getting penalized and soon dried up. Nevertheless, the field of online passive income remains alive to this day. After all, getting affiliates isn’t the only way for you to turn a dormant website into a passive income source.

Transforming Your Site Today

The key to turning a dormant website into a good source of passive income is to make it valuable to a certain group of people. Let’s take a quick look at two types of websites that are usually meant to earn passive income:

  1. A site that mostly contains pop-up ads, banner ads, and practically any other type of ad you can think of. I’m sure you’ve run into this kind of website several times before. This approach may require the least effort, but it also gives you the least return on your investment.
  2. A website that contains “How-to” articles, updated twice each month. This isn’t completely passive, since you’ll have to post new content from time to time, but it also doesn’t require much effort and is more likely to turn in a good profit.

In the above example, it’s obvious that the second website offers more value to users than the first. That’s why it stands a better chance of turning in a good profit. Here are a few tips on how you can add value to your dormant websites and turn them into good sources of passive income:

  1. Create an ebook

Check out all the “How-to” articles you’ve written or published so far. Do you think you can compile them into a book people would find interesting and helpful? Perhaps there might even be a way for you to expound on one of your articles such that you can turn it into a detailed guide. You could then use one of your dormant sites as an online store for your ebook.

Post a summary and teasers for your ebook on that site and then set up a mechanism to allow visitors to pay for and download the book directly from that site. To promote your eBook, you could post teasers on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts along with a link to the website. You could even post the teasers and link on your business website.

  1. Create a Subscription Service

As mentioned earlier, you could create a series of articles that offer something of value to people and then post these articles on one of your dormant websites. In order to earn passive income from the site, you could require payment of an annual subscription fee. If you choose to go this route, though, you have to make sure your articles are truly relevant, useful, and interesting so people will consider them well worth the fee.

  1. Create an eCommerce Website

You already have an official website, so why do you need another one for selling products? This question is probably going through your mind right now. Well, whatever your product is, there are sure to be other products that complement it or are related to it in one way or another, right? You could provide space on one of your dormant sites for other brands to sell their products and earn a commission from each sale made.

Let’s assume that your main products are contact lenses. You could earn passive income by allowing manufacturers of lens solutions, lens cases, and eye makeup to sell their products on your dormant site! Of course, the site will no longer be dormant when you do that, but that’s the point, right?

Dormant websites don’t have to remain dormant forever. They can be excellent sources of passive income as long as you know how to design them such that they offer real value to users. You can make use of any of the strategies discussed above or better yet, use them all on the different websites you have. The more passive income streams you create, the less trouble you’ll be in, should your business unexpectedly suffer financial losses. Remember, it always pays to prepare for the rainy days.

Do you have dormant sites? If so, any plans to turn them into passive income sites?

Image credit: Bigstock

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step Five)

Author:

Step Five Serving Cusomters

Your product is out there! You’re starting to make some money! Now you can sit back and just watch the passive income roll in, right?

Wrong.

One of the biggest mistakes most people make when selling digital products is thinking that the work ends after launch day. Very few people can “set it and forget it” when it comes to digital products. You need to provide great customer service to turn your fans into customers and to turn your customers into advocates.

Step Five: Continuously Serving Your Customers

Today, before ending this series of posts on selling digital products, I want to delve a little deeper into the life of a digital product after launch day. Let’s talk about…

  • Whether or not digital products are actually a source of passive income
  • Finding new customers beyond the initial burst of sales
  • Short-term customer care
  • Long-term customer care

When Passive isn’t Really Passive

Everyone always talks about how great passive income is, but the fact of the matter is this: passive income isn’t typically truly passive. Whenever you have money changing hands, customer support is needed. There will always be someone who has trouble downloading your product or logging into your website. There will always be someone who wants a refund. There will always be someone who has problems with payment processing.

This can be passive in the sense that you don’t have to be personally providing the customer support. You can instead hire a team of VAs to help you with this task. Then, all you’ll need to do is some initial training.

Just be aware that if you choose not to provide customer support, the result will not be good for your bottom line. People who have bad experiences tend to be extremely vocal on social networks. When someone googles your name/product, do you want a bunch of bad reviews to be the first thing that pops up?

Finding Customers

Launching a digital products is exciting because you typically see a rush of sales on launch day, slowly dropping off over the course of a week or two. But what then? If all you do is link to your product on your sidebar, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Every person who visits your blog is a potential sale. How much money are you missing out on, simply because you leave it up to people to figure out you have a product for sale?

So what can you do to find new customers continuously? Here are a few ideas?

  • Set up an email campaign some that when someone signs up for your mailing list, they get a message about your product.
  • Write blog posts about similar topics and link to your product at the end.
  • Write guest posts for other bloggers and mention your product in your bio or even within the post if relevant.
  • Run promotions throughout the year, offering discounts or free trials.
  • Work with your affiliates for special promotions.
  • Host a Google+ Hangout and talk about your product.
  • Come up with a plan to mention your product on social networks on a regular basis.
  • Create free products related to your paid product to give away, then upsell to the full product.
  • Do a free webinar about a related topic and talk about your product at the end.

Short-Term Customer Care

Short-term customer service is all about taking care of problems, right? Well, kind of. Problems should be your main focus, since these are opportunities to turn a bad situation into a good situation. However, don’t ignore your customers who are singing your praises or you biggest group of customers–the ones who say nothing at all.

Create an automated email sequence so that about a week after your product is purchased, the customer receives an email follow up. Ask for feedback, offer a surprise bonus, or simply thank them a second time. You want that “second touch” with each customer to show that you really do care.

Make sure you reply to anyone who emails you, even if they are not inquiring (or yelling!) about a problem. The people who love your product or just have a question are the people who will sing your praises if you give them a little attention. We all like to feel like we’re important. When you personally reply to someone, even to just say thank you, you’re making your customers feel noticed.

While I do advocate you doing this yourself, you can have a VA help you manage this part as well by categorizing your emails so you can reply more quickly.

Long-Term Customer Care

Think about how you’re going to connect with your customers long-term as well. Why should you care? Because they’ll give you even more money! When you have another product for sale, someone who has felt they received a lot of value from you in the past is going to pull out their credit card a second time.

It’s about more than a great product. You do want to be sure that what you’re selling is awesome. But more importantly, if you go that extra mile, you’ll have people begging you for another product or even giving you more money in the form of a donation. Pat Flynn once told a story about people purchasing a product from him that they didn’t even need just to say “thank you” for his free help in the past!

The key is VALUE. Here are a few ways you can offer long-term value:

  • Offer a free “second edition” version of your book to people who purchased in the past.
  • Ask your customers to become affiliates so they can earn a little income from recommending your product.
  • Engage with customers on social networks. Beyond just talking about your product, get to know them and share their links from time to time.
  • Create a community around your product, offering forums, Facebook groups, etc. for customers to talk to one another.
  • Do a call/webinar with your customers around the 3-month-since-launch mark to answer any lingering questions.
  • Touch base via occasional emails.

The point is this: keep people involved. Then, when you have another product for sale or want a boost in sales for your current product, ASK your community of customers to help you! They can…

  • Tweet, pin, and otherwise share via social networks
  • Send emails to their friends and followers
  • Write testimonials
  • Review your product on other sites

So, while you might be thinking of your digital product as a passive source of income, if you put some more time into building a community around the product, you’ll sell more products over the long term. Passive? Not really. Profitable? Absolutely!

I hope this series has helped you prepare for selling your next digital product. Remember to check out all of the other posts in the series if you haven’t already!

 

See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch
  5. Step Five: Servicing Your Customers (this post)

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step Four)

Author:

Step Four Plan Your Launch

You’ve build awesome relationships. You’ve chosen the perfect product topic. You’ve created a digital product that would make your mama proud.

Now what?

“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work when you create a blog, so why would it work when you create a digital product? If you want to sell more than a handful of copies, you need to plan a product launch to get the word out about how awesome your product is.

Step Five: Plan a Digital Product Launch to Promote Your New Product

The best product launches combine the following pieces:

  • Promotion to your networks
  • Extended network “favors”
  • Affiliate promotions

But before we talk about those things, however, we have to talk about what is perhaps the most important part of your product launch: timing.

Timing Your Product Launch

Someone once told me that if you have a good product, you can launch it any day of the year and be successful. While I do think this is true, if your timing is crap, you aren’t going to maximize your success. If I launch a digital product on Christmas, I might sell 100 copies and deem it a success, but if I had launched another day with the same product, I might have sold 1000 copies…so how successful was I, really?

It isn’t just about avoiding holidays, though.

First, I recommend doing some research to see which day your community is most active. Your list is a great way to do this kind of research. Split test your next few emails by sending to different groups on different days to see if one day has a higher open rate than others. Remember to test weekends as well. Although product launches are typically during the work week, some communities are just online more over the weekend.

Timing your product launch well also means that you don’t start selling your product the day it is done. Yes that new car smell might be enticing, but if you set yourself up for success first, you’ll sell more units!

Something else to consider: People respond well when there’s a sense of urgency. So, make sure you build this into the timing of your product launch. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Make it available early, for a limited time, to a certain group of people, like your email subscribers.
  • Make it available at a lower price point during your “launch” period.
  • Combine it with other products or offers for a limited time.

Promotion to Your Networks

During the creation phase of your product, you should start “hinting” to your community that you have something coming. People love to be in-the-know, so this is a great way to generate sign-ups for your mailing list. Be a little secretive, but release enough details that you’re giving people a juicy tidbit to whet their appetite.

At this point, you should also begin planning how you’re going to promote the full product to your community. This includes:

  • Writing and scheduling tweets, Facebook updates, and shares on other social networks for launch day.
  • Writing and scheduling email blasts to go out to your network.
  • Writing and scheduling a blog post about the product.

Don’t wait for the night before to do these things. Get them written and scheduled so the day of your launch you can focus instead on customer support.

Extended Network “Favors”

Hopefully, you’ve already been working to build relationships with others in you niche and in related niches. Now’s the time to call in some favors. Two to four weeks before your launch day, it’s time to start working with your online friends to get ready for launch day. Here are a few things you can ask for:

  • Guest Posts: Ask your friends if you can publish a guest post with them about the topic of your product. Link to the product at the end of the guest post, in your bio or as allowed by the other blogger.
  • Social Shares: Ask your friends to tweet about or otherwise share the link to your new product or the blog post about the launch. Make it easy by creating a few pre-written tweets they can use.
  • Emails: Ask your friends to mention your new product in their email newsletter or even send a dedicated email to their list.
  • Bonus Items: Ask your friends to provide a “bonus” item (like a short guide or video) that can be given away during your product launch to help entice people to make a purchase.
  • Testimonials: Ask your friends to write a short testimonial about you or (if they’ve seen it) your product.

Remember, to have a friend, you have to be a friend…and beyond that, be careful not to use people. If your primary reason for building a relationship with someone is so they can help you, you’re doing it wrong!

When asking for favors to go with your product launch, be respectful of others’ time and always make it as easy as possible for people to help you.

Affiliate Promotions

Two to four weeks before your product launch is also when you can start working on your affiliate program. You can invite your friends to be part of this, and you can also reach out to your broader community to invite them to take part.

You need a program to manage your affiliates so they get paid and can easily share your content. Here are some of the top affiliate management programs out there for digital product sales:

  • E-junkie
  • Share-a-Sale
  • Commission Junction
  • Has Offers
  • Infusionsoft

Another great option is to work with an affiliate management consultant. This person works on your behalf to increase your affiliate sales, but they take a percentage of the cut. Affiliate managers usually have a specific program they like to use, and they’ll set it up for you from start to finish. Make sure you’re on board with whatever service they’re using though, as the monthly fee or percentage of sale you’ll pay varies from company to company.

For more on affiliate programs, I really like this post: The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Affiliate Program.

Guess What? No Product Launch is Perfect!

No matter how well you plan and how many connections you have, no product launch is without your problems. So, be ready to provide support, and get ready to take notes on what to do differently next time!

See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch (this post)
  5. Step Five: Customers Service

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

What is a Sales Funnel and Why Should Content Creators Care?

Author:

“What the heck is a sales funnel?”

I remember that thought going through my mind when I first started to get serious about my blogging. I forget where I first saw the term, but I certainly didn’t know the definition of sales funnel or why it mattered to me as a blogger.

More and more, I saw it, though. And not just for bloggers. It seemed like everyone was talking about it – podcasters, business owners, video producers – pretty much everyone creating content online.

So I decided to get to the bottom of it. What is a sales funnel? And since understanding this concept, I’ve been able to take my online content to another level. So today, I wanted to do a little 101 lesson for anyone out there who doesn’t know what a sales funnel is or doesn’t think it applies to them. I assure you, it matters, even if you don’t think you work in sales!

A sales funnel can be illustrated with this simple graphic:

sales funnel So let’s say you’re working in a traditional sales setting. The first level, the wide pool, might be 1,000 names and numbers you’re given to cold call. Of that wide pool, most people hang up on your or say they aren’t interested, but maybe 10% or 100 people show some interest. They’re in that second level. Once you explain your product more, maybe 10% of those, or 10 people, are willing to come into your office to discuss more – they move to the “very interested” level. And over those 10 people, maybe 1 person actually takes action and buys the product.

The theory is that the more people you put into the top of the funnel, the more people who will come out the other side having taken action. If 1,000 cold calls = 1 sale, I need to call 10,000 people every month to make a quota of 10 sales.

The reason to look at a sales funnel is so you can make improvements. 10,000 people might be WAY too many people for me to call every month. So, to meet my quota, maybe I need to improve my pitch so that instead of 10 people being interested in coming into my office, 50 people are interested. If I still make sales to 10% of them, that means 1,000 cold calls is worth 5 sales instead of 1, so I only have to call 2,000 people every month to meet my quota.

Or, looking at the sales funnel, I might determine that I need another step or level. Maybe instead of inviting people to the office as the next step, I ask if I can send them more info in the mail as the next step, and from there I follow up with the ask to come into the office to hear about the service or product.

But Why Should You Care?

As a content creator, you may or may not be selling a product/service. But you do have an end goal, an action you want your audience members to take. When someone lands on your website, what is it that you most want them to do.

Let’s say that you have an ebook to sell. Someone who comes to your site for the first time probably isn’t going to buy it right off the bat, unless they had a strong word-of-moth recommendation. Instead, you have to move them down that sales funnel. This is what it might look like for you:

sales funnel 2 Your funnel might have more steps. But think about what moves a person from level one, where they’re visiting your site for the first time, to the final level, where they’re buying your ebook. Then look at the conversation rate of each step. How can you boost the percentage of people who move down the funnel, so more people are making it to the end of the line? (This is an awesome guest post on proven techniques for boosting your conversation rate.) Or what can you do to add more steps? If you’re jumping right from reading posts to trying to sell your ebook, people might not respond as well because that’s a big action to take. But if you’re asking for something smaller, like signing up for a mailing list, more people might be inclined to move to the next level.

Like I said, this works even if you don’t have a product to sell. For example, let’s say that your goal is to get as much traffic as possible because you make money through sponsored posts, and the more traffic you have, the more sponsors will be willing to pay for these posts. In this case, your end goal might be for people to share your posts on social networks. So, your funnel might look like this:

sales funnel 3 The more people you get to each level, the more people who will come out the other end of the funnel sharing your content. So maybe you need to start at the top can think about ways to get more people to see you links. Or maybe you need to work on your headlines so that more people who see the links move to the next level and click.

You can create a sales funnel for ANY goal you might have. Just think about the action you’d most like new visitors to take, then write out the steps someone would take to get there. Go back and analyze your conversion for each step to see where you can improve.

Now that you understand what a sales funnel is, will you start using it? Leave a comment to tell us your plans (or what you’re already doing to funnel people to your final goal)!

How to Improve Your Site Conversion: 10 Data Proven Tips

Author:

“Conversion” – it sounds like such a mysterious thing to newer website owners. You want more of your site visitors to buy your product. Those who are already buying, you want them to come back, buy again, and spend more while they are at your site.

However, the sheer number of elements that go into creating good conversion rates can seem overwhelming at first. Should you look at your call-to-action buttons? Do you need a better product description? Fortunately, there are companies that have big marketing budgets, or sometimes small ones but a lot of time to experiment, who have studied what works best to improve site conversion. By studying the techniques these companies have used successfully, you can gain some insider tips that will help improve conversion on your site.

NMX testimonials 1. Include Customer Testimonials

Adding customer testimonials tells your site visitors that you can be trusted because others have been happy with your product. WikiJob, a graduate jobs website in the UK and one of the largest, was able to increase sales by 34% simply by adding an optimized customer testimonial. You will want to take three steps to not only add testimonials, but ones that will increase your conversion rates.

  1. Collect customer testimonials. The easiest way to do this is to provide a link the customer can click on, e-mail current customers, and simply ask for testimonials.
  2. Use the testimonials on your site. Have a separate page, sprinkle them throughout your text, put them in an image box and include on your landing page, etc.
  3. A/B test the statements by optimizing them for SEO, increasing the size of the text, trying different placements, etc. and see which combination works best to increase your income.

The  co-founder of WikiJob, Chris Muktar, shared with Visual Website Optimizer how they tested their theory. They had two main goals. First, they wanted to get people to click through to PayPal, but their final goal was to convert that click into the customer purchasing the product. They tried their theory on a single landing page at first. They even experimented with placement, but the only thing that made a difference was upfront, sincere testimonials on the landing page.

2. Offer Trust Signals

Imagine for a moment that you are a visitor to a website for the first time. The product looks interesting, but you don’t know the person running it or anything about the company. Can you even trust them to deliver what you pay for? How do you know they will offer good customer service if you’re not happy with your purchase?

You can allay a lot of fears your customers have by offering trust signals. Offer a 30-day full refund, returns without questions, double money back guarantee (careful with this one), or even free shipping to help entice those new customers to trust you. Even the USPS offers a money-back guarantee on their Express Mail services.

3. Create Closed Checkouts

When you study your website statistics, do you notice that a lot of your customers go to the ordering page but don’t follow through with the order? Perhaps the customer is getting distracted. People are crazy busy these days. There are dozens of distractions for the average person. From children needing help with homework, to television, to a text message coming through to other websites and even, at times, your own website’s sidebars.

Closed checkouts remove all distractions in the checkout process. Amazon is a perfect example of a closed checkout that has translated into a massive sales machine. Once you arrive at your shopping cart, it is not easy to suddenly browse elsewhere. Instead, Amazon funnels the customer through the system, gathering payment information, shipping and suggesting additional products others have purchased. To model Amazon’s method:

  • Remove links that will take the customer away from the checkout process
  • Try to stick with simple pages without a lot of clutter, such as multimedia or even a lot of images
  • Create a clear process where the customer confirms the order, adds payment info, adds shipping and sees one clear button to click to complete the sale.

4. Add Special Effects

Let’s go back to your landing page for a minute. Special effects can drive the traffic that hits your site to the page you want it on, such as the ordering page, or a special offer. The goal is to make it easy for the site visitor to navigate to the page you want him on.

  • Hello Bar is a neat little tool which allows you to place a bar on your page that has text and is clickable. You can make it a bright red, for example, so it stands out and the customer will see the bar and may click on it. Be clear in the text as far as where the customer will go. For example, put the words “more information on plans and pricing” in your bar.
  • nRelate Flyout is a plugin that works with WordPress to insert a flyout box on your page similar to what is used at New York Times or Huffington Post. This catches the reader’s eye. Offer a tidbit, such as “save 34% on heating costs this winter with our energy efficiency plan” and your visitors may just go to your product page to learn more.

5. Watch Industry Trends

Check trends in your industry, watch what is trending on Google and Twitter, keep an eye on your friend’s Facebook pages and even tune in to the national news. A perfect example of how a company went with trending news and revamped their site to increase conversion happened when Michael Jackson passed away. According to Andrew Girdwood, it was within two hours if the King of Pop’s death that Amazon edited their MP3 homepage to feature Michael Jackson songs.

Editor’s note: of course, always be sensitive to current events, especially tragedies. There’s nothing worse than a company trying to profit off of sad news, like a shooting.

6. Check Site Usability

All the site traffic on the Internet won’t do you a bit of good if your site is hard to use. Bad navigation, home page clutter, lengthy pages, or poor layout will all hurt you with site visitors. If your site is slow to load, visitors will leave and move on to the next site that loads more quickly. Here are some things you can do today to ensure your home page and landing pages are easier to read in digital format:

  • audible Create a page layout that is balanced. If you’re not sure, ask a graphic designer or web designer friend to help. Artists usually have a natural eye for balance as well.
  • Use headers, subheaders and bullet points to break up the text and make it easy to skim.
  • Make sure there is white space between paragraphs and make your paragraphs shorter.
  • Make sure important navigation links are easy to find.

Audible.com is a good example of a usable site. The layout is easy to read and the text stands out against the white background. The top of the home landing page states two options very clearly: “How It Works” and “About Membership”. This is the information a visitor needs to decide whether or not Audible is right for him. Audible very effectively funnels the first-time visitor to one of these two pages and then offers a free book so you can try it out.

7. Have Separate Landing Pages

Nearly every business out there has more than one type of customer. If you sell pet rocks, for example, you might have a very young audience made up of children ordering pet rocks with their birthday money and an older audience ordering pet rocks as gifts. You may also sell different types of pet rocks, such as mini pet rocks and boulders. It is important to have different landing pages for different targeted audiences. You can more easily track how successful a particular site conversion tactic is with that product or audience.

Voices.com was able to improve their conversion rate by more than 200%. Through customer surveys and analytics, they determined that they had two main types of customers. Their customers were either voice over artists or companies seeking such artists. They created two separate funnels, one for each customer type.

8. Improve Headlines

The headline is the first impression the reader has of your website. Perhaps it is while she is browsing on a search engine, or maybe it is when a friend shares an article on a social media site. Whatever the case, you have a chance to make her want to read more or to yawn and walk away.

You can easily keep her on your site and through your content convert her into a customer by:

  • Improving your hook
  • Creating a set of templates that are proven effective formulas for headlines

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Read the Headlines Writing Guides at Web Hosting Secrets Revealed for 35 sample headlines and how to create your own.

# 9: Add Videos

Would your product be presented better with a video? In one case study, jewelry sales rose by an impressive 247% when videos of the product were added. A few things to keep in mind based on this case study:

  • Feature one product at a time so you can easily enable A/B testing for how successful that video is for that product.
  • Keep in mind that some visitors will have slower load times and cover the information in text in case they have multimedia disabled.

10. Keep It Short

The average Internet browser spends around 4 seconds looking over a page before deciding to move on. This could be due to the increased use of smart phones and tablets to access the Internet, but whatever the cause, you have a very short amount of time to hook that reader and get her interested in your product.

Remember that less is more. Let’s look at AssessmentDay’s success with cutting some of the elements on a landing page. The company had a landing page with a call-to-action button, a FAQs section about what type of assessment tests they offer, screenshots of their software in action and some headlines to tie it all together. They simply removed the screenshots, a very easy change, and their A/B test results showed a 62% change. Shorter landing pages are better for conversion rates.

Convert Visitors into Customers

If anything, these case studies prove that small changes can make a big difference. Removing a few graphics, adding a guarantee, showing customers that others love your product call all work to increase conversion. Smart conversion tactics equals success.

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step Three)

Author:

Step Three Create Your Product

So far in this guide, we’ve talked about building relationships to help you sell your product and about choosing the right product format and topic. Today, it’s time to get down to the meat of selling a digital product: we’re talking about how to go about creating the product itself.

It can seem like a daunting task. This is where a lot of bloggers get hung up and their digital product never happens. How many of us have half-finished products just sitting on our computers? Yes, I’m in this boat as well! But I’ve also finished products that have gone on to be very successful. So, today, I’m going to share with you the difference between creating a great product and losing steam half way through the product creation step.

Step Three: Get Organized for Perfect Product Creation

Creating a digital product falls into five main parts:

  1. Planning
  2. First Draft
  3. Polishing
  4. Editing
  5. Packaging

Some people only do step two and maybe three. This is a recipe for disaster! Let’s walk through each step from start to finish.

Planning for Product Creation

You might think that determining the type of product you’re going to create is all the planning you need, but if you don’t spend some time outlining and collecting your thoughts, your end product will suffer. Here are the steps I suggest you take before you start writing or recording:

  1. Brainstorm or mindmap your topic: Allow yourself to freely think about all of the ideas you have related to your topic that you could potentially cover.
  2. Edit your ideas: Not everything about the topic needs to make it into your product. You want to cover the topic adequately, but keep in mind that your product needs to be focused. If you have to many ides, your topic might be too broad. Focus for a single product or make plans to create several products.
  3. Organize the ideas: Once you’ve crossed off sub-topics that aren’t going to make the cut, organize the remaining ideas into an outline that makes sense for your type of product. For example, if you’re writing an ebook, organize by chapter. Or if you’re creating a video series, organize ideas by which video you’ll use to cover them.

Then, start to flesh out your outline. The more details you can add, the better.

Let’s say, for example, that I’m writing an ebook about Twitter, and one of my chapters is going to be on creating Twitter lists. I wouldn’t just leave it at that and start writing, though. I would break down the outline farther:

  • What is a Twitter list?
  • What kinds of Twitter lists should you create?
  • How to find people to add to your Twitter lists
  • Promoting your Twitter lists

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would break down this topic even further:

  • What is a Twitter list?
    • Definition
    • Explain how to create them
    • Why you should create them
  • What kinds of Twitter lists should you create?
    • Private versus public
    • Naming your lists
  • How to find people to add to your Twitter lists
    • Manually adding people to your lists
    • Tools to help you automate the process
    • Who NOT to include
  • Promoting your Twitter lists
    • Should you promote your lists
    • Methods for promotion

Now, if i were really going to write an ebook on this topic, I might break down these topics even farther. That way, when I start writing, I just go down the list and make sure that every topic makes it into the book in the write order.

First Draft and Polishing

Once you’ve planned, it’s time to start creating your product. I’m going this the “first draft,” which typically refers to written content, but your videos, membership site, course material, etc. can all be “first drafts” of sorts. Basically, we’ll talking about the first attempt at creating the content.

This step is where a lot of projects go to die! :)

Here are my best tips for getting it done, even if you don’t have tons of free time (who does?):

  • Have content creation goals. For example, when I’m writing an ebook, I set a goal to write a certain number of words every night before I go to bed. Or I might have a deadline to finish each chapter Stick to these small milestones. The first time you give yourself permission not to complete your daily tasks is the beginning of the end.
  • Use content you already own. Blog posts, older video scripts, etc. can be reformatted and used to create new content. This takes a lot less time.
  • Give yourself a work time and space. Every night from 10 PM to 11 PM you sit in your home office and write. Or every Monday during your noontime lunch break you record one video in your dining room area. Having a set schedule and location for doing your work can help you meet your goals.
  • Set a firm deadline. These are a little different from goals. A deadline is a time for the entire first draft to be done. The best way to make your deadline real is to tell someone (like an editor) when the draft will be available. That way, you’ll hold yourself more accountable. If you work with a mastermind group, you can also work with others to hold one another accountable for meeting goals and hitting deadlines.

Part-way through the product creation process, a weird things sometimes happens: you figure out that you’re doing things in the wrong format. That’s okay! Now is the time to change your idea a bit to better play to your skill set and make sure that you’re giving your future customers the best possible product.

Once you have a complete first draft, it’s time to polish it. This is the self-editing process can be difficult, but try to be liberal with your red pen. Cut unnecessary words and even unnecessary sentences or full sections if you’re producing written content. For other content, be just as liberal with cutting sections. You want to present your customers with the best, most focused product possible.

Editing

So if you’ve already self-edited to polish your work, why am I calling this section “editing”? Because self-editing and proofreading isn’t the same as having someone else look at your work to give you feedback. I know a lot of people cut costs in this area, but if you work with an editor, your final product will be much stronger.

And if you don’t have a great final product, customers will disappointed and less likely to recommend it to their friends.

If you don’t have a big budget, here’s how you can still get a great editor for your product:

  • Trade services with a friend: You edit their new ebook, they edit yours. It’s easier to see mistakes in others’ work. This is a great way to get free feedback and even proofreading services.
  • Offer a free “sneak peak” to your top community members: Give them free access in exchange for providing feedback on your product. This isn’t good for proofreading, but it is good to get general comments on how to make your product better.
  • Work with a VA: Virtual assistants (VAs) are often available at a very low cost, and they do great work. Find someone who specializes in editing and proofreading, preferably in your niche/industry.

Don’t skip this step. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!

Packaging

Lastly, once the content of your product is created, you have to package it. You need to design the ebook and create the pdf. Or you need to upload your videos and create a page to host them. Or you need to design your membership site. Or…well, you get the picture.

In the food blogging world, the saying is that people “eat with their eyes first.” In other words, you have to make it pretty if you want to sell it. So don’t skimp on this part either. Hire a designer if you can’t do the work yourself.

Along with packaging, you need a distribution method. Here are a few options:

  • Put the content behind a pay wall on your site. People will need to log in to view and/or download this content. The easiest option for this is a service like Wishlist Member.
  • Use a service like E-Junkie for easy distribution when someone purchases the product. You can also do this through PayPal, though other services allow you to have an affiliate program as well.
  • Manually distribute the product whenever someone buys it. This requires virtual no set-up, but can be too hard to manage depending on your sales. If you go this route, you may need to hire a VA to help with this process.
  • Set up an email sequence to distribute the product. For this option, you’ll need an advanced email management program, like Infusionsoft, where payment processing is also an option.

I can’t give you advice on which mention you should use. That depends on your specific product, the skill level of your customers, your budget, and your projected sales. Look into all of the options and try to stick to just one for all of your products if possible (this is the easiest option!).

Now…go out and create your digital product! Next up, we’ll talk about preparing for launch day. If you missed any of the posts in this series, you can view them below!

See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product (this post)
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch
  5. Step Five: Customers Service

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step Two)

Author:

Step Two Choose the Perfect Product

Yesterday, I started this “selling digital products” series with step one, about building relationships. Today, let’s get into the meat of selling digital products and actually talk about the type of product you’re going to sell.

In the past, I’ve made the mistake of just starting to create, but in actuality, it behooves you to put a little thought into determining what product will be perfect for your audience. It might not be the product you’re initially inspired to create. This is one time that you don’t want to go with your gut, at least without giving your gut’s advice a little thought.

So, the second step in selling digital products is examining your options and choosing what kind of product to sell.

Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product for Your Blog

In thinking about the product you’re going to sell, there are two main things to consider:

  1. Topic
  2. Type of Delivery

Topic is the most important category, so let’s start there–but make sure you read to the end to learn about type of delivery as well, as this makes a difference to your bottom line too.

Your Product’s Topic: How do you choose?

If you want to make money on your blog by selling a digital product, you have to think about what your audience really wants. A poll is a great place to start, but sometimes your audience doesn’t know what they want or need.

To have a better grasp on what will sell, think about Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you’re not familiar with Maslov, his hierarchy lists what people want/need in life, in order of importance to survival. At the base of the pyramid, you have things you actually need to live, like food and water, and as you move up the pyramid, you see other wants/needs in order of importance. This video explains it well:

In the video, the speaker is talking about this pyramid in relationship to helping mental health patients. But anyone who is selling a product, digital or otherwise, should access where their product falls on this pyramid as well.

What problem does your product solve for people? The lower this need, the more people who are likely to buy it. For example, if you’re selling pills someone needs to live, that’s going to be a higher priority for someone than if you’re selling jewelry or tickets to a sports game.

Now, it is possible to sell products no matter where they fall on this hierarchy. But the higher you go on the pyramid, the more money you need people to have. If someone doesn’t have a ton of disposable income, they’re going to spend their money on an ebook about financial planning before they spend their money on an ebook novel.

Of course, not everyone makes smart financial decisions, and some people spend beyond their means, going to the movies when they don’t have enough money for rent. But in general, the higher your digital product falls on the hierarchy, the higher income your average customer needs to have.

Here are some more great tidbits of advice when it comes to choosing the topic for your next digital product:

Product Delivery: What Type of Digital Product to Sell

After choosing a topic, you also have to choose a delivery method for the information. You can choose this first, but I like to think about topic initially, before I decide how to deliver the information. In my mind, topic is key!

Here are some of your options for digitial products:

Ebooks: These can be anywhere from 10 or so pages to hundreds of pages long. The digital formatting means that you don’t have to keep inventory in stock or pay for printing, so you cut your self-publishing costs significantly.

Here are arguments from people much smarter than myself about why ebooks rock:

White Papers: Like ebooks, white papers are traditionally text-based. The terms are actually used interchangeably in many cases, though a white paper delves more deeply into the topic and focuses on thought-leadership, instead of a general overview like you get with an ebook, and are extremely data-driven. White papers also often focus on explaining the specific benefits of a product, service, technique, or way or thinking. They are also usually very text-heavy, as opposed to the “hipper” highly-designed ebooks that many people are producing.

I like to compare white papers versus ebooks to scholarly articles in journals to educational articles in well-respected magazines like Time or Rolling Stone or Popular Mechanics (or whatever is comparable in your niche). Both give you great information, and often cover similar topics, but the scholarly articles are on a different level (though that doesn’t make them better…they are just written with a different goal in mind).

Courses: Sometimes, an ebook isn’t quite as organized as you want the information to be. So, instead you can offer a course with lessons. This allows you to present the content in a way that encourages more action from anyone who purchases it. Course don’t just include text, like an ebook, but also activities for the student to complete. Course can include workbooks, suggested reading lists, videos, and more.

This video from David Siteman Garland is awesome for explaining why online courses are great for packing your information:

Tutorials: Maybe you don’t need a full course on your topic of choice. Maybe you just need a tutorial (which can be text, audio, video, or a combination). Tutorials are shorter, but typically teach a highly-desired skill to learn. For example, you might sell a tutorial on you beauty blog about how to achieve a certain hair style that you’d typically have to pay to get at a salon.

Membership Sites: If you have lots of content to share, a membership site might be the right route for you. Membership sites can include virtually any kind of content – blog posts, interviews, videos, even full courses, and you can also build an “inner circle” community behind the pay gate using forums and other means for members to talk to one another. One of the great thing about membership sites is the recurring revenue stream option. While someone might pay for your ebook once and be done, with a membership site, they’ll pay you a small amount every month, and often, even people who never log in don’t take the time to cancel!

Here are a few resources about why membership sites might be a good option for digital information distribution:

Webinars: You might be able to charge $100 for consulting or coaching on your topic of expertise, but there’s a ceiling with this business model. If you work 8 hours a day, you can only make $800 max. Even if you were super human and could work every single hour of the day, never sleeping, you’re still limited to making $2400 a day. Nothing to sneeze at, for sure, but what if you could do the same work, but make ten times that amount? With paid webinars, you can. Webinars allow you to teach a class on your topic to a live audience, then open the floor for questions. You won’t make as much per person as you would if you were working with them one-on-one, but you still have a higher earning potential this way. Instead of coaching one person for $100 an hour, you can coach 50 people at once for $20 an hour each – and make ten times the amount!

This is not an exhaustive list of infoproducts you can choose to sell, of course! You can sell just about anything if you have a community of willing buyers!

The key is to match your digital product’s topic with the format that makes the most sense. If you’re teaching someone a very visual skill, like how to bake bread for example, you probably want a video tutorial or course, or at least an ebook with a ton of pictures. The answer isn’t always what is cheapest or easiest to make. You’ll sell more products if you really think about what your audience needs, because when people like your product, they tell their friends!

So take some time to brainstorm. Then come back for tomorrow’s post in this series, all about how to actually create your product!

See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product (this post)
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch
  5. Step Five: Customers Service

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step One)

Author:

Step One Build Relationships

The right digital product can continue to make you money forever. You want to know how to make money on your blog? Sell your own product and pocket all of the profits instead of just getting a percentage like with affiliate sales.

It’s an appealing prospect: create a product–something that doesn’t require inventory or physical shipping, put it for sale on your blog’s sidebar, and watch the cash roll in. That’s what all the guru-expert-ninja-bad-ass Internet marketers say you can do, right?

In practice, things don’t really happen that way, unless you have one of two things:

  1. A huge audience of millions of people who follow you online and buy anything you try to sell them
  2. A plan

Unless you’re Lady Gaga, let’s focus on having a plan instead! This is my step-by-step guide to selling digital products on your blog the RIGHT way. Yes, it is a lot of work. But trust me, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Step One: Selling Products Online Starts with Relationship Building

Before you sell any product, you need to build two types of relationships: peer relationships and customer relationships. Sometimes there’s a bit of overlap, depending on what you’re selling, but it really depends on your specific market.

Please note: I believe you can start making money from day one, but if you put a product for sale on your blog immediately, before you have much traffic or a strong community, you won’t see much in the way of sales. Instead, consider a free product to get people on your mailing list while you build trust.

Peer Relationships

It’s hard to successfully sell a digital product if you don’t have the backing of your niche community. In other words, when other food bloggers like you, you’re going to be more successful at selling your cookbook. Why?

  • They send traffic to your posts, which can be converted to sales.
  • They review your product.
  • They mention your product to their fans.
  • They become an affiliate for your product.
  • They purchase your product themselves (this is the customer overlap I mentioned).

In the beginning days of blogging, it was fairly easy to get to know other bloggers in your niche, simply because there were only a few dozen people. Today, every niche is crowded. There are thousands of bloggers in your niche, no matter what you write about. Why should they notice your blog? Why should they let you into their circle of trusted friends?

Here are some of the top ways I’ve found to connect with other bloggers, even if you are brand new and don’t personally know anyone else in the niche:

  • Guest Posts

Contrary to popular believe, I’ve grown to learn that guest posting is not just about reaching new readers. In fact, it might actually have very little to do with reaching new readers. Instead, it’s about providing content that the blog owner loves. We’re all really busy. If someone sends you amazing content so you have a break from publishing on your blog, that’s a really good thing! Even better if that post sends a ton of traffic your way.

So write guest posts for other bloggers in your niche. Make sure it is your absolute best work, and support your guest posts with social shares and mentions on your own blog.

  • Community-Building Link Roundups

In every niche, there are certain topics that lots of people blog about. For example, if you’re in the fashion niche, during September and October, many people will likely be posting about fall fashion.

Do some legwork. Reach out to other bloggers, one by one, and ask them to submit a link to their top post about fall fashion (or whatever the topic might be). Then compile those posts into one giant roundup on your blog that includes pictures, links, and encouragement for readers to visit the other bloggers and follow them on social networks.

You can also do something similar, but instead of asking for a link, ask for a tip about a certain topic. For example, if you’re a travel blogger, you might ask other travel bloggers to submit a few sentences about the best restaurant they’ve ever been to or their top tip for traveling with kids. Again, after receiving everyone’s tips, you would create a roundup post on your blog that links back to everyone’s blogs and social profiles.

Doing community-building roundups puts you on the map for other bloggers in your niche, especially if you put work into making them special. Create a button for every participate to display on their blog. Tweet about the post, taking the time to @-reply to each blogger thanking them to participating. Be extremely complimentary about their submissions. Email them the link when it is posted (with no pressure to promote).

  • Social and Blog Interactions

Bloggers make an effort to know the leaders in their own blog communities. If you’re someone who comments on all of their posts, shares all their links on social sites, and otherwise supports their content, they’re going to notice you. Easy as that.

You can also interact with other bloggers by linking to them in some of your posts. Huge link roundups are one thing, but why not also take the time to individually link to specific posts when relevant? For example, if you’re writing about the best ways to use Pinterest, you might link to another blogger’s post on a similar topic.

Don’t be afraid to tell people when you’ve linked to them, but never be pushy about them sharing your stuff. Link to people because you want to show your readers great content and you want to say “thank you” to the blogger for writing it, not because you want someone to share your stuff.

  • In-Person Meetings

When you meet someone in person, it’s easy to remember them. So, if you can meet your favorite bloggers face-to-face, do so! Have an intelligent question ready, and keep the conversation short. You want to be memorable, but not because you droned on and on!

Where can you meet other bloggers?

  1. Events (like NMX of course) where they are speaking
  2. Events they are attending
  3. Book signings
  4. Tweet ups and Meet ups

If you’re going to be in town where one of your favorite bloggers lives, or you know they’re going to be in your town, you can also offer to take them for coffee. Don’t be afraid to ask. Not everyone will take you up on the offer, but heck, I would never turn down free coffee with someone who enjoys my blog!

There are tons of other ways to continue building your relationships with peers in your niche as well, depending on your specific niche. Just keep in mind that you also want to be a giver, not a taker. In other words, when you’re trying to build a relationships with someone, be helpful, flexible, friendly, and kind.

Customer Relationships

At the same time you’re building peer relationships, you also want to be building customer relationships. This falls into two categories:

  1. Reaching new people
  2. Strengthening the relationships you have.

Let’s talk about reaching new people first.

Most bloggers understand that making money is truly a numbers game. The more readers you have, the more money you’ll make. Now, this doesn’t mean that someone with 1000 readers per day is going to make more than someone with 100 readers per day. You can’t compare yourself to other bloggers. But if YOU have 1000 readers per day, you’re probably going to make more money than a few months ago when YOU have 100 readers per day.

So, you want to reach new people, constantly.

Whenever possible, target, target, target. Paying for targeted traffic is an option that we recently covered here on the NMX blog, but even when you’re looking for free (organic) traffic, spend your time looking for readers who are going to be extremely interested in your blog and able to purchase your product. For example, if you’re a food blogger, it probably makes more sense to focus your time on Pinterest than it does to build a presence on LinkedIn.

What most people don’t realize, however, is that strengthening the relationships you have with current readers is just as important, if not more important, than finding new readers. And it’s actually not very hard. Here are some of the best ways to strengthen your relationships with current readers so that someday, when you’re selling digital products, they throw their money at you:

  • Reply to comments. Sometimes you can’t respond to each comment and sometimes you have nothing to say in reply to a comment. That’s fine. But I know bloggers who don’t respond to any comments.
  • Reply to emails. When someone actually takes the time to write out an email to you, that means a lot. The least you can do is respond, as I wrote about here. If you don’t have time to respond, it’s time to hire a VA.
  • Take time to visit your readers’ blogs. I know, I know. There are only so many hours in a day. However, visiting someone’s blog can really make them feel special. So, once or twice a week, sit down and see where your commenters are blogging. Visit and leave a comment. They’ll feel like a rock star.
  • Follow your community on social sites. I really don’t like when I see bloggers following just a few people. It tells me that you want to broadcast your stuff but you don’t give a crap about what your fans are saying. Use the private list function on Twitter, circles on Google+, etc. to filter out the people you know personally so those messages aren’t lost in your stream, but occasionally see what your community is saying.

Most importantly, write content so valuable that they have to keep coming back.

“Valuable” is a term that means different things to different bloggers. It might mean that you write posts that are so entertaining, your readers have to come back for more. It might mean that you write posts filled with information that helps someone reach their own goals, even when nothing else could. It might mean that your content is presented with a unique voice that really makes them think about life in a new way.

In other words, you have to consistently publish content that people can’t get anywhere else. That way, when you have something to sell, people know they have to buy from you, because they aren’t going to be able to get the content they’ve grown to love anywhere else.

To summarize, step one of selling digital products has…well…nothing to do with digital products. It’s all about building relationships with your peers and with your readers!

Stay tuned for our next installment, about figuring out what kind of digital product to create.

See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships (this post)
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch
  5. Step Five: Customers Service

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

What’s New on the NMX Blog:

NMX 12 Days Of Giving: Day 1 – Complimentary VIP Upgrade

NMX is pleased to once again present our annual 12 Days of Giving event, where we offer a special gi...

Learn About NMX

NEW TWITTER HASHTAG: #NMX

Recent Comments

Follow Us on Twitter

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. (Please Confirm Your Subscription by Visiting Your Inbox)

Categories

Archives